When I first began my home yoga practice a couple of years ago, I had a vastly different mindset than I hold today. Yoga was designated to hitting all the poses while I stared blankly at my computer screen waiting for the next instruction. I would end each session feeling somewhat unfulfilled and less eager to roll out my mat again the next day. It’s only recently that I’ve really begun to experience what people mean when they say yoga is life. As I’ve grown more in my practice, I’ve started to see some interesting parallels between what is experienced on the mat and how it mirrors important life lessons.
It isn’t uncommon or even wrong to show up to a yoga class and spend most of the time observing other people around you to make sure your poses look right. After all, no one wants to be the one that the teacher stops in the middle of instructions to adjust (been there). But when we practice yoga in this way, we are missing out on the beautiful surrender that happens when you stop thinking and start flowing. A good rule of thumb is to carve out some time in the beginning of your day or after work when you can really forget about other obligations and quiet your thoughts. At first, it might feel unfamiliar to just let your body move along and wholly embrace each sensation. However, after a while it will become more natural both on and off the mat to surrender to your intuition and, as Yoga With Adriene always says “give your thinking mind a break.”
Appreciating the Journey
Many of us approach doing yoga much like preparing a new recipe. Once we have the ingredients, we follow the listed steps and hope the end result looks and tastes good. If we were to skip ahead or leave one step out, we are left with a much different result. It’s tempting to want to hit a yoga pose and master it in one go, but it often doesn’t happen on the first try. Sometimes we have to go back to square one and build up the strength and flexibility before we can return and try it again. In life, many of us have work, school, or life goals that we invest a lot of time and energy into achieving a desired end result. We focus so much of our attention on finishing, that often we don’t appreciate the steps it takes to get there. Yoga is a wonderful reminder to honor the process and appreciate the ability to grow towards your goal on your own time.
Having a Sense of Humor
Ask anyone who’s taken a yoga class only to topple over during crow pose and they would admit they’ve felt embarrassed at some point during their practice. Both in yoga and in life we may find ourselves in situations that make us want to throw our hands up in breathless exasperation. It’s natural to have expectations for how we’d like to be perceived, being the social creatures that we are. Sometimes you will find yourself in a ridiculous position and the best way to handle it is simple: laugh. Playfulness is at the heart of a good yoga practice because it allows for the flexibility to grow and make it your own. The same can be said for simply living a life mindfully and with grace. Sometimes you really do have to laugh to keep from crying and I’m here to tell you that it’s perfectly normal.
If there is anything I’ve learned from cultivating a regular yoga practice, it’s to make self-care a priority. There may be days when your energy is low or your To-do list seems miles long, but just showing up on the mat is an act of self-care. It means that you’re intentionally creating the time to do something that directly benefits your wellbeing, which is really powerful. Many of us are under the impression that if we aren’t constantly going somewhere or keeping really busy, then we aren’t being productive enough. However, even the word enough is directed towards comparing ourselves to others. It’s an indirect neglect of self-care and will eventually lead to feelings of burnout or emptiness. You can only really be of service to others when you practice regular self-care. Whatever that might look like is entirely up to you!
There’s nothing like a good balancing pose to really throw you off kilter in your yoga practice. I can’t even count how many yoga sessions I’ve spent talking back to my virtual YouTube instructor, muttering something along the lines of “it’s not even human to balance on one leg for that long.” Of course, balancing poses get easier the more you practice and build up your strength. And sometimes it may take many tries before getting it just right. The same can be said for establishing a good work-life balance. Many of us will at some point feel that we are leaning too far in one direction or the other. In a society that places a lot value on productivity, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle. Just the same, it’s easy to waste time browsing Instagram instead of trying that new thing you’ve always wanted to do but don’t have the time for. But when you make the time to practice balance, you’re prioritizing both purpose and fun activities. This will naturally lead to feeling more grounded and in control of your life.
Yoga can really be a great tool if approached mindfully and with intention. I’ve found it to be a wonderful teacher in that it subtly guides me to experience exactly what I need on any given day. Nothing more and nothing less. The more mindful we become in our physical bodies, it will lead to letting our intuition guide us throughout our days both on and off the mat.
What life lessons have you learned from yoga?
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